“EUTM applications at EUIPO continue to grow, having increased by 4% to over 150,000 in 2018, while applications for registered Community designs (RCDs) fell by 2%—a trend that continued in the first quarter of 2019.”
IP rights face “a challenging future,” according to Christian Archambeau, the Executive Director of the EUIPO, who spoke to the media during the INTA Annual Meeting in Boston last month. In particular, he cited the challenges posed by Brexit, international cooperation, artificial intelligence (AI) tools and Blockchain, working in multiple languages, and the volume of applications.
EUIPO (formerly OHIM) is the Office responsible for registering EU trade marks (EUTMs) and registered Community designs (RCD) in the European Union. But Archambeau, who became Executive Director in October last year, also emphasized its broader remit to support cooperation between offices in Europe and beyond, and to promote IP awareness, particularly among SMEs. In this respect, he said the Office is looking at “helping SMEs with services that help them and make sense to them,” although it cannot change fee levels, which are set by an EU Regulation.
He added that such promotion could span different IP rights. In particular, he believes design rights are “under-used” and said there is “a cultural attitude that designs don’t come to mind sufficiently early,” something the Office hopes to address. Moreover, he said “we would love to” play a bigger role regarding geographical indications in Europe: “It would make sense. The business case is clear.” The Office recently announced a cooperation with EURid, which manages the .eu domain, to enable trademark owners to be notified if an identical domain name is applied for.
The Global Challenge
EUIPO is also working on projects outside of Europe, notably in southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa, to promote IP systems, Archambeau said: “The international element becomes more important … We would like to make alignment happen.” The Office is an enthusiastic participant in the TM5 alongside the USPTO, CNIPA, KIPO and the JPO.
However, Archambeau acknowledged that the globalization of business and IP also brings significant challenges. EUIPO is in the process of adding Chinese data to its TMview search product, a complex project that should be complete this year. The Office is also seeing significantly more trademark applications from China, though he said these are mostly straightforward to examine. At the moment, Chinese characters are treated as figurative marks—but that may be something the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) will have to address at some point. Questions about language and translation are a constant challenge for EUIPO, as for other EU institutions. At present, EUIPO operates with 23 official languages—and there are more than 100 languages and dialects spoken throughout Europe.
With the volume and complexity of work increasing, Archambeau predicted that big data and AI will play a great role in ensuring “efficiency and consistency” and that the Office will make more use of tools such as chatbots and machine learning-based image search. But he added that humans will still be needed to make decisions: “Examiners will move from helping with the application to giving guidance.”
In a presentation during the INTA Annual Meeting, Archambeau revealed that EUTM applications at EUIPO continue to grow, having increased by 4% to over 150,000 in 2018, while applications for registered Community designs (RCDs) fell by 2%—a trend that continued in the first quarter of 2019. He also noted that EUTM cancellation actions have increased by about 20% over the past two years—and that EUIPO is taking steps to deal with this increased workload.
Brexit Will Affect EUIPO Staff
EUIPO has published details of its 2020-2025 Strategic Plan, which Archambeau said aims to “deliver IP value for businesses and citizens.” It will be open for consultation from June to September, with approval expected in November. This is after the new European Commission takes office on November 1, and also after the current expected date of Brexit—October 31. Archambeau pointed out that the Office has no role in the Brexit negotiations, and “we will have to do what we are told.” Brexit will, however, have an impact on the Office’s staff: about 40 of the 1,000 permanent staff are currently British and will either have to gain a new nationality, or possibly be retained as “third country national experts” if they are to remain working at EUIPO when the UK leaves the EU.
Image Source: EUIPO